Archive for the 'Pastoral Ministry' Category

More Shepherds Needed

Monday, March 5th, 2012


Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.

1 Peter 5:2

The office of pastoral ministry is a supernatural gifting enabling the man of God to have compassion on the unlovely, patience with the perplexed, and healing for the wounded and tenderness to the broken. A gifted pastor is an icon of the tenderness, kindness, and care of Jesus to the flock of believers and to the wider world of lost and forsaken sheep. A pastor’s responsibility includes preaching, teaching, counseling, comforting, and sacramental provision. The more there are wolves in the forest, the greater the need for compassionate and caring shepherds.

One must not follow the unbiblical tendency to despise the office and work of a pastor or to declare clergy to be redundant . . . pastoral oversight is a permanent feature of the church. Though the New Testament gives no detailed blueprint for the pastorate, yet the ascended Christ still gives pastors and teachers to his church. And they are greatly needed today.

As the sheep multiply in many parts of the world, there is an urgent need for more pastors to feed or teach them. And as the wolves multiply, there is an equally urgent need for more pastors to rout them by giving their minds to the refutation of error. So the more sheep there are, and the more wolves there are, the more shepherds are needed to feed and protect the flock.

John Stott, Authentic Christianity, ed. Timothy Dudley-Smith (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 292.

The Ministry of the Priest

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Bringing God and People Together

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.

Eph. 4:11-12

The ministerial priesthood is called to serve, nourish, sustain, and guide the priesthood of all believers. The believer’s priesthood is a call to be Christ in the secular workplaces of the world. Men are not ordained into the ministerial priesthood in order to remove the priesthood away from the people of God, but to encourage, empower, and equip the priestly people of God for their work in the world.

This doctrine of the priesthood of “all” believers is not the doctrine of the priesthood of “the” believer. In other words, every believer has a ministry, but that ministry is to be conducted in community while being accountable to church leadership. This personal ministry of me and my Bible with God telling me, and me alone, the only correct interpretation of the meaning of Scripture is not the priesthood of all believers.

From living lives of hostility and enmity towards God, Christians have been transformed by the Holy Spirit into ministers who bring the healing and grace of Christ to the least, lost, and the lonely of our world. The two priesthoods, ministerial and believers, serve the one Christ for the purpose of reaching the world.

The ministerial priesthood is called to stand in between the people of God and God. This mediation is not to be “an obstacle, but a necessary helper.” The ministry of mediation is not a substitute for Christ, but a needed help in getting people to Christ. At times, we struggle and a priest comes and leads us by the hand into the presence of God. A good priest does not magnify himself, but with pastoral sensitivity and gentleness, he leads the priestly people of God into the presence of God.

A priest is indeed someone who stands between man and God. Perhaps because he does so, he can become an obstacle impeding man’s communion with God. But it need not be so. The priest may stand between man and God not as an obstacle but as a necessary helper.

If we know our own selves at all, we know that there are times when we need someone to stand between us and God. There are times when God seems very far away, and we need someone to take us by the hand and lead us into the presence of God. Every one of us, surely, looks back with gratitude to the times when someone has done just that for us, brought us into God’s presence, made God real to us, brought us to peace with God . . . .

But to say this is not to deprive the ordinary ministry of its priestly character. That would be a complete reversal of the truth. The fact that the whole Church is called to a priestly ministry necessitates the priestly character of the ordained ministry.

We who are ordained to the holy ministry are called to be priests in order that the whole body of believers may obtained to its true priestly character. We do not have an ordained ministry in the Church so that the other members may not be priests, but so that they may be priests.

Lesslie Newbigin, The Good Shepherd (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977), 43.

Whose Approval Do You Seek?

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Approval of Men or the Blessing of God.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Gal. 1:10

In pastoral ministry, there are many and assorted temptations that bishops, presbyters, and deacons face. None is more enticing than wanting the approval of the people in your parish at the expense of obedience to the Lord’s direct commands.

Pastors are basically very insecure people. They lead a volunteer army. At any time a congregation can decide that they do not want to follow their pastor’s leadership. Every pastor knows this and must find his security and approval in Christ rather than in the praise and appreciation of his parishioners. If the pastor does not, he will find the up’s and down’s of pastoral ministry to be more than he can bear. The pastor will constantly be worrying about his performance and whether that performance has met the expectations of his congregation.

Spiritual maturity for a pastor means finding a place of Sabbath rest in Christ. This rest transcends the worries, cares, and anxieties of pastoral ministry giving a pastor a sense of security in Christ that human words cannot explain. He is able to experience Christ’s presence, hear God’s voice, and stand in God’s authority as he ministers in Christ’s stead.

Nothing is more easier, pleasanter and more likely to win people’s respect than the office of bishop or priest or deacon, if it is preformed negligently and with a view to securing their approval; but in God’s sight there is nothing more sorrowful, miserable and deserving of condemnation. Again, there is nothing in this present life, and especially now, more difficult, toilsome and perilous than these offices if they are carried out in the way our Lord commands; but, at the same time, nothing is more blessed in God’s sight.

St. Augustine of Hippo cited in Trials of Theology, eds., Andrew Cameron and Brian Rosner (Christian Focus, 2010).

HT: The Gospel Coalition Blog

Great Receivers Do Ministry

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Ministry is the Overflow of the Life of God in You

For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

Col. 1:27 (NLT)

My sermon, “Great Receivers Do Ministry” is now available as a Google document. The sermon was delivered on March 7th at Lamb of God Church and March 11th at the Diocese of the Central Gulf States Lenten Clergy Retreat.

My conclusion:

Whether or not people respond to our ministries, we are still called to serve, to be inconvenienced, to be tired, to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice, to labor without compensation, to listen, and to exhort. We are not called to be adequate (i.e., have all the answers), but to be available to God’s great grace (i.e., vessels for the master’s use). Ultimately, the results of our ministry belong in the hands of God.

  • Ministry is the overflow of the Life of Christ living in us.
  • Ministry is not being adequate, but being available for Christ to work through us.
  • Ministry is being a great receiver of God’s great grace in Jesus Christ.
  • Ministry Like No Other (Part Two)

    Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

    Pastoral Ministry: The Heart of a Father and a Mother

    But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

    1 Thess. 2:7-8

    Ministry is about people, if you do not like people, you will not like Christian ministry. The same manner in which Jesus ministered in the gospels is the same manner in which he will minister through you (Col. 1:27).

    In turn, Jesus liked people. Therefore, those who minister in Jesus’ name will like people, too. Seminaries cannot teach you about people: only experience can provide insights into people’s peculiarities, choices, attitudes, and issues. On one hand, people will serve, encourage, and love others with an energy and life that is both surprising and delightful. On the other hand, people can act with the most devious and self-serving of intentions. Their behavior defies all the rules of gracious and loving behavior. These same people who are simultaneously bewildering and benevolent attend our churches and work in various parachurch ministries.

    Pastoral wisdom recognizes that Christian people are imperfect and that these people are the people that God uses to advance his kingdom (2 Tim. 2:10). Pastoral care points people to Jesus, reminding them of his precious promises, and encouraging them to trust the Christ who died and rose again on their behalf (2 Peter 1:4). Pastoral counsel uses scripture to display God’s great grace and remind his people that Christ is available in power to live his life in and through them (1 John 4:9). Pastoral comfort makes available the sacramental grace of our Lord to the bewildered and hurting (1 Cor. 11:23-26).

    A preacher must be a fighter and a shepherd. He must have teeth in his mouth. Teaching is a very difficult art. Paul contends (2 Tim 4:2; Titus 1:9), as does Peter (2 Peter 2), that sound doctrine must be urged and that those who contradict must be answered.

    Men who hold the office of the ministry should have the heart of a mother toward the church; for if they have no such heart, they soon become lazy and disgusted, and suffering, in particular, will find them unwilling . . . . [Luther drawing from John 21 paraphrases the words of Jesus] Unless your heart toward the sheep is like that of a mother toward her children- a mother, who walks through fire to save her children- you will not be fit to be a preacher. Labor, work, unthankfulness, hatred, envy, and all kinds of sufferings will meet you in this office. If, then, the mother heart, the great love, is not there to drive the preachers, the sheep will be poorly served.

    Martin Luther

    HT: The Oversight of Souls

    Ministry Like No Other (Part One)

    Monday, March 8th, 2010


    Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

    2 Tim. 4:2

    Ministry is the overflow of the Life of God in you. You spend time with Christ, Christ reveals himself afresh. The overflow of that experience is life, that life encourages and blesses others. Ministry is communicating “life information” to others: why he loves, what God does, when he speaks, where he works, and how he transforms. Ministry is sharing with others how God has been faithful in your life and how God will be faithful in theirs. Ministry is encouraging others to trust Christ’s work on the Cross, the Father’s faithful provision, and the Holy Spirit’s consistent guidance.

    The message I would bear is Jesus Christ and him crucified and from the consideration of the great things he has done, to recommend and enforce Gospel holiness and Gospel love, and to take as little notice of our fierce contests, controversies and divisions as possible.

    My desire is to lift up the banner of the Lord, and to draw the sword of the Spirit not against names, parties and opinions, but against the world, the flesh and the devil; and to invite poor perishing sinners not to espouse a system of my own or any man’s, but to fly to the Lord Jesus, the sure and only city of refuge and the ready, compassionate and all sufficient Saviour of those that trust in him.

    John Newton, “Letter to Harry Crooke of Hunslett, Leeds,” cited in Marylynn Rouse, “An Important Turn to My Future Life,” The John Newton Project Prayer Letter (October/November 2008), 1.

    The Pastoral Burden

    Friday, March 5th, 2010

    Pastoral Responsibility and Its Limits

    Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

    Eph. 4:22-24

    I ‘ve been in pastoral ministry for thirty years now, it’s hard to believe that I have served that long. I have been a staff member with the Agape Force, Director of College and Career for an Assembly of God fellowship, and a charismatic Baptist Church (S.B.C.). Also, I pastored an independent charismatic church called Christ Our Life. The last fifteen years of my pastoral ministry has been with the Charismatic Episcopal Church (C.E.C.).

    Serving as a presbyter (i.e., priest) as opposed to a preacher/pastor has been fulfilling. Maybe in the coming weeks, I can explore the differences and similarities of being a priest as opposed to a pastor. But for the moment, a presbyter and a pastor both feel a great spiritual burden for their sheep. Pastoral ministers live with the grief of departures, the sadness of unexplainable suffering, and seeming futility of their work.

    All of us as ministers struggle with discouragement at times. You work with people, spend time with people, exhort people to trust Christ, and then, watch those same people make bad moral choices. You wonder what you could have done to prevent such spiritual calamity (Heb. 13:17).

    In the past, I would often feel guilty for their failure. Somehow I thought, I must not have said the right thing, or taught the needed truth, or spent enough time with them. Then, the Holy Spirit began to speak to me. He said, “I have called you to love, to serve, to teach, to counsel, to encourage, and to pray for others. However, each person has to make their own choice to walk in the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25). You cannot make others walk in the Spirit, all that you can do to is to encourage them to trust me.” In other words as a pastor, you cannot make people choose righteousness. Their choices are their responsibility.

    The Holy Spirit’s words have brought an immense amount of comfort to me. The decision is up to each individual: Do they really want to change? Do they really want Christ more than any worldly pleasure or fleshly desire? Do they really want to please Christ in their attitudes and actions? Do they want Christ more than anything (Phil. 3:11)? For pastoral ministry to be effective, we must have an unreserved willingness to change, to hear God, and to obey his instructions.

    We must have the unconditional readiness to change in order to be transformed by Christ.

    Dietrich von Hildebrand, Transformation in Christ (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990), vii.